Two-thirds of young people without their own home believe they have no prospect of getting on the property ladder, a survey has suggested.
Higher deposits and tougher lending criteria have put off many potential buyers in the past few years.
The poll of 4,000 non-homeowners for the Halifax found that many believe the banks do not want to lend to them and will "find excuses" to turn them down.
The Halifax described this as "undue pessimism".
Stephen Noakes, commercial director of Halifax Mortgages, said there were two key issues dissuading potential first-time buyers from getting on the housing market.
"The first one is the size of the deposit that's required today," Mr Noakes said.
"The second factor though is fear of rejection and a number of prospective first-time buyers, about two-thirds of them, believe that most first-time buyers are rejected."
Miles Shipside, of the Rightmove property website, said the knock-on effect of the mortgage drought had been a marked rise in people searching for places to rent.
"Compared to two years ago we've seen rental searches go up by two-thirds, yet the available rental stock down by a quarter," he said.
"Obviously it's a result of the lack of mortgage availability - they do want a roof over their heads but unfortunately for them it's a rented roof."
Average rents in England and Wales have returned to record levels, according to a recent survey.
The average rent paid by tenants was £692 in April, according to a survey from LSL Property Services, which was 4.4% higher than a year earlier.
David Berry from Merseyside, who is married with two young children, told the BBC that his family had decided that buying was not a viable option.
"My wife and I are both 32 with two young children. We actively decided to rent for the foreseeable future and just forgot about trying to buy since the stress of not being able to so was unhealthy," he said.
"We simply accepted that this would not be possible for us, at least not in the short term.
"We have accepted that paying a high rent to live in a much nicer house than we would ever be able to afford to buy is a worthwhile sacrifice."
Some 47% of those surveyed by the Halifax said they would like to save for a deposit but had no spare cash to do so.
Nearly half of those who described themselves as having a realistic plan to buy within the next three to five years said they were unable to put aside enough for a downpayment.
Mr Noakes told the BBC that the days of 100% mortgages, widely available before the onset of the banking crisis, were over.
But he said that mortgages for those offering a 5% deposit could come back to the market, and there were options such as shared equity schemes that could assist those trying to buy a property.